Relocation and Employee Wellbeing
by Sara Boehm
“Employees who believe that management is concerned about them as a whole person – not just an employee – are more productive, more satisfied, more fulfilled. Satisfied employees mean satisfied customers, which leads to profitability.”
Corporations have begun to increasingly implement employee wellness initiatives, recognizing that investing in their workforce both professionally and personally is critical to ensuring productive and loyal employees. And this notion of employee wellness should hold true from the point an employee is hired.
Hiring often involves relocation, and this process can cause disruption and stress to the employee and their family. Most companies recognize the toll that the logistics of a move can take and often offer benefits to lighten the burden of the financial and logistical stresses that accompany relocation. From a realtor to packers and movers to temporary housing, these efforts allow an employee to focus on the job transition rather than being overwhelmed in planning a move. But the stress of a move goes much farther than logistics and extends much farther than to just the employee. Uprooting one’s life and having to start over in a new city can be very stressful emotionally and that strain can last for up to a year after the move as the employee struggles to settle in and feel at home. In the meantime, their health, workplace engagement, and productivity may suffer and, in some cases, the company may struggle to retain this relocated talent. These less visible stressors can impact an employee’s long-term success and therefore are necessary and vital for a company to address.
Additionally, in many cases, during this transition, the employee isn’t just moving his/herself, there is a family involved that must also uproot and restart in a new city. The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry notes that “Moving to a new community may be one of the most stress-producing experiences a family faces.” With this in mind, each family member impacts how successful (or unsuccessful) the relocation is! In fact, “family issues” emerge as the number one reason for relocation resistance in a recent survey done by the Worldwide ERC. This highlights the significance of ensuring that the employee as well as his/her family is supported throughout the entire process, not just during the few days of the physical move.
Each family member will be battling their own, unique challenges as they settle in. Parents struggle to ensure the family is happy while trying to successfully adapt themselves. Children thrive on consistency, so the move can be a jarring and unsettling experience as they are faced with adapting to a major life change, perhaps for the first time. This can be a great and exciting opportunity for them, but with it may come sadness and discomfort. Teenagers have the added social stress that adolescence brings, at times compounding the move’s difficulty. On top of this, as college application time nears, academic concerns and issues caused by the transition take on greater significance. Providing parents with information and resources to guide them in supporting their teen through a smooth and healthy transition can help make the difference during these challenging times.
Moving can be an exciting opportunity for both an individual as well as a family to experience, but the benefits of a move can easily be overshadowed by the challenges and pitfalls of feeling uncomfortable, lonely or overwhelmed. In order to ensure new and relocating employee wellbeing, companies must provide needed resources to support the emotional and mental challenges of relocation. From resources and advice for the move via care packages like from a service like Essential Engagement Services to HR or relocation services can provide in-house like geographical introduction tours and newcomer groups as well as ensuring mental wellness experts are available and accessible, companies should craft relocation packages that truly support employees through the ups and downs of relocation. The short and long term return on investing in human capital will not disappoint. By supporting and alleviating not just the logistical and financial burdens, but also the emotional hurdles of moving, organizations can create a truly comprehensive relocation and employee wellness program to set employees up for ultimate success and also set the stage for a culture that is responsive and healthy.
 2015 Worldwide ERC US Transfer Volume and Cost Survey
About the Author
Sara Boehm is the Founder of Essential Engagement Services, providing employees with premium resources to guide them and their families through the often-overlooked mental and emotional stresses of settling in to a new location that can distract employees during their first year after relocation.